Take care in the open air! Health chiefs plea to Northamptonshire folk as lockdown is eased TODAY

Here's how to stay safe as you can meet pals outdoors for first time since January 5

Monday, 29th March 2021, 8:49 am

Public health chiefs are pleading with Northamptonshire folk to "take care in the open air" as lockdown restrictions are finally eased today (Monday).

Stay at home orders have been lifted for the first time since January 5 and people are allowed to leave home without good reason — albeit with some limitations.

Up to six people or two households are allowed to meet outdoors as long as those from separate 'bubbles' or do not live together stay two metres apart and the advice is to minimise travel and 'stay local'.

Open spaces are set to be busy tomorrow (Tuesday) as temperatures are set to soar into the 20s while kids are on school holidays.

But Public Health Northamptonshire is urging residents to stay safe and avoid delaying the roadmap out of lockdown ahead of the next step, the planned reopening of non-essential shops on April 12. Reminders include:

■ Maintain social distancing by staying two metres apart

■ Avoid face-to-face and physical contact

Northamptonshire's parks and open spaces are expected to be even busier tomorrow as termperatures soar. Photo: Getty Images

■ Sanitise hands if there is no tap to wash and bin face coverings properly after you've finished

■ Not to share drinks

■ Avoid shouting and surfaces that are often touched by others.

■ Use contactless payments where possible

County public health director, Lucy Wightman said: “We are urging all residents to be Covid-secure now, over the Easter break and beyond.

"Please keep to the Covid-19 protective mantra — Hands, Face, Space — so we can push the rates down and look forward to a summer when all the restrictions may be lifted.

"Until the rates of the virus go down further it is still not safe to meet indoors, even for a cup of tea. For this reason, it remains against the law to do so.

“Last year we saw an increase in the numbers of cases in school aged children after the holiday period. Please remember that rules on outdoor meetings apply to children or young people even though they have been bubbled up at schools where Covid-secure measures are in place.

"And you cannot have play dates indoors or sleepovers over the Easter break."

New Covid cases have flatlined across Northamptonshire at around 600 a week, although both Corby and East Northamptonshire have seen significant rises since the beginning of March.

Count health chiefs are pinning their hopes on people sticking to the rules, the vaccine roll-out and increased testing facilities limiting any increase in cases as restrictions are eased.

Mrs Wightman added: "What happens next really lies within in the behaviour and the responsibility of each individual across Northamptonshire."

"We've done everything that that we feel is physically within our means.

"We've educated, we've enforced where people haven't understood or haven't been compliant or been deliberately been non-compliant. We have provided testing facilities. All of the settings that are reopening we have worked really hard to provide risk assessment - to provide additional safety measures - our employers are engaging in testing themselves and also encouraging their employees to go to one of the testing sites we've opened."

More than 300,000 people in the county — more than half the adult population — have received at least a first jab.

Vaccination programme chiefs are urging anybody at high risk from coronavirus or over-50 who has yet to get a jab to book an appointment via the NHS website HERE, or by calling 119 or your GP as slots dry up ahead of anticipated shorter supplies over the next four weeks..

■ Anybody with Covid-19 symptoms — high temperature, continuous cough or loss of or change in sense of smell or taste — should immediately self-isolate to avoid any risk of passing on the virus and book a PCR swab test on the Test and Trace app, online at nhs.uk/coronavirus, or by calling 119.

Appointments can be booked HEREfor the six community-based sites for those with no symptoms available in Corby, Northampton, Brackley, Wellingborough and Daventry. These use lateral flow devices producing results in around half-an-hour and are aimed at those who cannot work from home.

Rapid testing kits can also be collected for use by secondary school pupils and college students, staff of primary and secondary schools, nurseries and colleges, adults in households, childcare and support bubbles of nursery children, primary and secondary-age pupils and college students. Find your nearest collection point HERE.